News - June 1996

White House statements on same-gender marriage

Office of the Press Secretary

The Briefing Room

MAY 13, 1996

Q: Mike, does the President have a position on same-sex marriage, and if Congress passes a bill outlawing it, would he sign it?

MR. MCCURRY: The President's against same-sex marriage. We'll have to look carefully at the legislation that's under consideration in the Congress.

Q: If I can just follow up on a previously asked question. You said the President is against same-sex marriage. Is this a position he's espoused before? Because it seems to me when this has come up in the past, you've tried to kind of finesse it, and I've never heard this kind of -- that I remember, this kind of pronouncement.

MR. MCCURRY: It reflects his views that he's articulated in the past and it reflects his position on the issue.

Q: Why does he oppose same-sex marriages?

MR. MCCURRY: He believes this is a time when we need to do things to strengthen the American family, and that's the reason why he's taken this position.

Q: He doesn't think that strengthens the --

Q: To your knowledge has his position been enunciated before publicly?


Q: When?

MS. GLYNN: As early as 1992, but after that as well.

MR. MCCURRY: I think -- in 1992, Mary Ellen says.

Q: How does he feel about legislation that would outlaw it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there is a piece of legislation that is under consideration on the Hill and we'll look at the legislation. . . .

Q: Mike, would you enunciate why you think that same-sex marriage -- or why the President thinks it would weaken the institution of the American family?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't talked to the President at length on it, but I'll talk to him further and amplify that. I just gave you our position.

MAY 14, 1996

Q: Can I come back to a subject from yesterday on same-sex marriage? You reiterated the President's '92 statement that he personally opposes same-sex marriage. But has he decided what to do on this legislation in the Senate?

MR. MCCURRY: They are still going to look at that legislation. Let me just point out on that, that legislation involves, as near as I understand it, a court ruling in Hawaii. The court has referred back to lower courts for further adjudication the question of how you would recognize same-sex unions. The President just believes that's wrong. He doesn't believe in same-sex marriage.

But, frankly, it's hard to see why they need this legislation at this point because there's no compelling argument right now that that -- there's no statute pending in Hawaii, so it's something that's going to clearly be adjudicated in lower courts. There's a sense here that what is driving the public debate on this issue is an attempt by some in Congress to force this as a wedge issue.

And the President, frankly, wishes that we would do a little more to bring Americans together and not hold out any community for punitive action. Now, there's a difference between sanctioning something and making sure that you prohibit discrimination. This President's record on ensuring that there's not discrimination against gay and lesbians is very clear, and he feels strongly on that, but just as a question of what he believes, he doesn't believe that same-sex marriage -- he just doesn't believe in it.

Q: But would he sign the legislation or not? You know you've got your liaison out there saying that the President is outraged with this type of a proposal.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's not at all clear that this legislation, once you look into it, not at all clear what the purpose of the legislation is at this moment and not at all clear that it's going to advance in Congress.

Q: Something like 33 states are considering legislation that would codify in their state laws that they wouldn't be like Hawaii, that a marriage is between a man and a woman. Eight of them have passed it. You can blame the Republicans in Congress for making hay of it and some of them have said they'd like to make hay of it. But when the Hawaii Supreme Court remanded it back to the court, there was an immediate reaction in all these states. And if the President thinks the bill is untimely or whatever, if it comes to him, could you get us an answer at some point whether he'll veto it or sign it?

MR. MCCURRY: Sure. I will, and I suspect his evaluation of the bill would be consistent with his personally stated bill that he opposes same-sex marriage.

Q: And Mike, a follow question. Yesterday, you had made the point that the President opposes same-sex marriages because he wants to strengthen the American family, and there was a question from the floor here why same-sex marriage hurts the American family and you implied that you might get back to us on that. Is this the right day --

MR. MCCURRY: No, the only thing I have -- The President believes that marriage as an institution ought to be reserved for a union between one man and one woman. That's his view -- has long been his view. I haven't gone deeper into the moral philosophy behind it. And marriage as an institution is one that brings people together, and thus is something that does strengthen the tradition of family life in this country.

Q: Does that mean the President would not --

Q: -- the anti-abortion Democrats who want to put that in the party plank -- change the party plank?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't have anything to add to what this spokesperson for the party said, or our campaign spokesman. They both sort of indicated that they are in the platform process, we would welcome contributions from people who would like to make the argument for that. I believe it is safe to say the Democratic Party will remain a party that advocates choice for women. But we also respect, on this very hard-to-resolve moral issue, we respect those that have different opinions.

Q: Mike, is your view of this, the President's view of this mean that there will be no kind of legal recognition of same-sex relationships that he would find acceptable, the word marriage aside, or is it simply the concept of marriage with all the religious and moral overtones that it's always had that makes him believe that it can't be done?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, marriage is a union sanctioned under state laws. That's why we're dealing with the question of Hawaii and others. And the President believes that that sanction by the state ought to be reserved for unions between male and female.

Q: Mike, yesterday when you were asked about this, when you were asked why he opposes same-sex marriages, said that you think we ought to be doing things to strengthen the family, thus implying same-sex marriage weakens the family. As you undoubtedly know, some gay rights activists took extreme umbrage at those remarks. Would you care to clarify them?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I dispute the question. I think a lot of people called this for what it is -- it was an attempt to try to divide Americans on the controversial issue. That's what this is, and that's what I saw spokespeople for the gay and lesbian community correctly say this is an issue that is just designed to provoke hostility towards gays and lesbians, and the President believes that's about right.

Q: But you're siding with the other side; you're siding with the side that is --

MR. MCCURRY: The President has a strong belief on this, and that's his belief.

Q: What about the extension of rights that typically accrue to married couples, such as health care benefits, Social Security benefits --

Q: Hospital visiting rights --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to go -- there are a lot of things that you get into in the whole question of domestic partnerships and what spousal rights people might have. That's basically not much of an issue at a time when we're having trouble protecting those benefits that already exist. But the President, consistent with the view that he is against same-sex marriage sees no opportunity here to expand federal benefits as they relate to spousal coverage. It would be contrary to his view that you -- contrary to his view against same-sex marriage.

Q: So he doesn't have, for example, any plans under consideration to sign various executive orders granting rights to gays, for example, for hospital rights --

MR. MCCURRY: I've heard of no such plans.


Q: Is the President -- your previous remarks on same-sex marriage seem to suggest the President opposes the concept of a domestic partnership law on the federal law. Is that a correct --

MR. MCCURRY: The President believes that, as they are now, that those are best left to state and local governments.

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